Train travel is definitely a lot more popular in Europe than it is in North America, where we tend to drive or fly more.
When I heard about the tunnel that was being built under the English Channel to connect Britain and France, I was fascinated. I marveled at the vision and the incredible feat of engineering it took to bring it to life and wondered what it was like for the people who worked on building it.
More than anything though, the idea of traveling in a capsule 250 feet under the English Channel sent my imagination wild. I was particularly curious to experience that part of the trip. How would it feel?
As soon as I booked my trip to London, I purchased a ticket to Paris on the Eurostar. For me, there was just no other way to go.
When the day arrived, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get on the train. Once I made my way to King’s Cross, I followed the signs to St. Pancras International Station. Since I had purchased my ticket beforehand, all I needed to do was check-in. There were several Eurostar employees helping and directing us so the lines moved smoothly. Eurostar warned that check-in closes 30 minutes before departure but I got there about an hour before.
After going through immigration and baggage check, I found my car and assigned seat – unfortunately, it was not near the window. I read a little, especially during the 20 minute under the Channel. I didn’t know what to expect but I was disappointed by how normal it was!
Once we were above ground again, I kept my eyes peeled as the beautiful countryside rolled pass my window. Approximately 2 ½ hours later, I was in Paris.
Getting There —
Book your ticket online at eurostar.com up to the day of departure – provided there’s availability but be prepared to pay more. For the best prices, book well in advance, say a month prior, and stay away from peak times: weekends, holidays, mornings and afternoons.
There are three categories of tickets: Standard, Standard Premier and Business. Within Standard and Standard Premier, there are two options: Non-Flexible and Semi-Flexible. As the name implies, Non-Flexible offers no flexibility to change, exchange or refund your ticket once you’ve purchased it. Semi-Flexible tickets can be refunded or exchanged up to 2 months after purchase for a fixed fee of Twenty-two Pounds plus whatever the difference is in the ticket you wish to exchange for.
On board –
There are power plugs for electronics however, there’s no wifi. Free internet access is available at St. Pancras, paid at Gare du Nord in Paris.
Meals are served in Standard Premier or Business. If you’re traveling Standard, you can purchase snacks, sandwiches, drinks in the club car.
If you require a visa, make sure to get one before you leave your home country. France is one of fifteen Schengen countries that are signatories to the Schengen Agreement which allows travel among the Schengen countries on one visa. The visa is issued by the country that you arrive at first, so if you’re going to France, you’ll need to visit the French Embassy for the visa. If you’re landing in Spain first, go to the Spanish Embassy, etc. To avoid delays, check the visa requirements carefully before you go.
For me, traveling by train in Europe brings on a nostalgia for a time when I wasn’t even born, that I see glimpses of in brochures and old movies. The Eurostar brings me a little closer to that time.